Today in Church (and U.S.) History

Harvard Chair Went to Doubting Wigglesworth

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Edward Wigglesworth (1732–1794) – Wikipedia

How did America’s great Christian colleges come to abandon their faith and become the secular institutions they are today?

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When Harvard College was founded by the Puritans in 1636, they knew well what they wanted from their school. “Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, John 17:3, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all found knowledge and Learning…” The great school was intended to produce a godly clergy.

In less than a hundred years, that high ideal faltered. Liberals won control of the school. On this day, January 24, 1722, they appointed Edward Wigglesworth to fill the newly created Thomas Hollis chair at Harvard College. This made Mr. Wigglesworth the first divinity professor commissioned in the American colonies, but what should have been cause for rejoicing was actually reason to mourn.

Although Wigglesworth had convinced orthodox members his theology was sound, it was not. In Three Centuries of Harvard, Samuel Eliot Morison described what happened next: “One of the first theologians in New England who dared publicly to challenge the ‘five points of Calvinism,’ he [Wigglesworth] employed the deadly method of doubt in inquiry, rather than direct attack… Wigglesworth was a prime favorite with Harvard students, and he and his son Edward, who succeeded, had a very great influence on New England theology. It was the Wigglesworths who trained the pioneers of liberal Christianity in New England–the ministers who led the way out of the lush but fearsome jungles of Calvinism, into the thin, clear light of Unitarianism.”

When the evangelist George Whitefield came to the United States, he denounced liberal colleges as “abodes of darkness, a darkness which could be felt.” The men of Harvard were “Pharisees, resting on head knowledge,” he said. Wigglesworth retorted that Whitefield was fiscally corrupt, demonstrated bad manners and unleashed dangerous enthusiasm among the masses, destroying the peace of New England’s parishes.

In 1701, Yale was founded to counter Harvard’s drift from orthodox Calvinism. By 1805, Unitarians controlled Harvard. Had Wigglesworth had a fervent faith, his appointment this day might have prevented that slide to heresy.


RELATED:

Liberalism is rampant on campus and ruining academia by Lauren Cooley  | September 06, 2018

Published by directorfsm

I retired from the Army in 1994 and lost my way in the world. I ended up in prison and it was truly the best thing that could have happened. There Christ rescued me from my depravity (John 3:19) and made me whole again. Since my release in 2006 I have worked in some form of ministry, either prison or construction/disaster relief and sometimes both. My lovely wife Naida and I serve as Missionaries from Pioneer Valley Baptist Church, Chicopee, MA. We are currently headquartered in Jackson, MS. We were sent to the mission field in 2012 to help Rebuild Lakeshore, a ministry of Lakeshore Baptist Church in Lakeshore, MS complete its post Katrina building projects. We had been serving there part time for many years before being called into full time service. While there my wife worked the Mercy House distribution center and I worked as project manager/volunteer coordinator also serving as Sr. Volunteer Chaplain at the local Hancock county jail. Since completing that project in late 2015 we relocated to Jackson MS to assist a church there that had come to help in Lakeshore many times. But due to many circumstances the focus for the ministry has changed some and expanded over the past 24 months. We still help churches in their building projects and do a lot of disaster relief work. For a full list of what we offer please see the SERVICES OFFERED page on our Faith Builders site. Back in 2006 I started Faithful Steward Ministries and FSM Women’s Outreach a Christian outreach ministry; to those with addictions, incarcerated and our veterans we continue to write and mentor these folks. Additionally I am a Chaplain for Mission M25 Network on Run For the Wall and for two military organizations. Between us my wife and I have two beautiful daughters 3 sons and 11 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild.

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